By: Kurt Snyder
Major League Baseball will begin the 2015 campaign with a new commissioner, Rob Manfred. My first emotion was joy as Bud Selig was not one of my favorite commissioners.
Without getting into a whole list of reasons, the one that stands out is the importance placed on the All Star game. Why on God’s green earth would you turn a fun annual exhibition, one showcasing our great game, and tie it to the World Series?
Imagine a team dominates their division, marches through the playoffs and advances to the World Series with the best record in baseball. They certainly have home field advantage right? Nope, no guarantees, not if their league didn’t win the All Star Game. That’s silly stuff right ‘dare’, “I don’t care who ya are.”
Now don’t get me wrong, a new commissioner has every right to walk into his new office and determine what to do with all the baseballs spread all over the place. He must consider how to clean the place up or decide whether to clean it at all.
But Rob Manfred has made baseball purists nervous, at least me anyway, by considering pitch clocks, reducing time between innings and most recently shrinking the strike zone to benefit the offensive side of the game.
So let me play commissioner for a minute. These are 5 things that I would look at to improve our game:
1 – Remove the All Star Game’s impact on the World Series. They don’t belong together.
2 – Leave the strike zone alone. In fact, how about this? Just have every umpire live by the same one. Today’s ball is sometimes tomorrow’s strike.
3 – If we are going to intentionally walk someone, just send the batter to first. Have the pitcher put 4 fingers in the air and be done with it. We aren’t sacrificing much excitement here.
4 – With 2 strikes on the batter, it’s game on. Time to hit. Time to pitch. Whatever the count, once it hits 2 strikes, the batter stays in the box. The only reason he gets out of it is because of an injury he sustains while hitting.
5 – Scratch the rule eliminating collisions at the plate, i.e. “The Buster Posey Rule.”
This last rule bothers me the most. Plays at the plate used to be exciting. But now a catcher has to worry about not blocking the plate and runners have to worry about contact. Heck, injuries may occur while players try not to injure!
Changes have taken place all over sports recently in the name of safety. My position on these changes has always been this: I would rather protect the game than the players.
It sounds harsh doesn’t it? But I don’t care. Injuries are inevitable, players sign up for it. And there is a sizable amount of aggression in every sport, bringing injury into play.
Concussions in football are a problem, and I won’t broach that subject. I am on the fence when it comes to what have become very sad endings of the lives of many football players.
But in baseball, the MLB gods have begun to embark on rules that threaten the sanctity of the game. It’s real important to be sure you are keeping the fans you have while you embark on drawing new ones.
Protecting catchers, the guys who wear the armor, should be nowhere near the top of the list. Removing excitement draws no one.
My dad, a former catcher in the Reds minor league system, would have surely sat with his arms crossed, shaking his head in disgust, on the day they created a rule to protect the catcher. What would he say if a catcher got hurt protecting the plate? “Get up, rub some dirt on it, spit in your glove and let’s play ball.”
So Mr. Commissioner, in your quest to improve the game and expand your audience, Breaking Bad’s Walter White might say, “Tread Lightly.”